Castrocaro TermeMy husband and I were recently invited on a tour to explore rationalist architecture in the Forlì-Cesena province of Emilia-Romagna. We expected to see structures of monumental scale and regimentation, but in Castrocaro Terme, found an overlay of fanciful decoration, which lightens the mood of an often ponderous style.

The spa town was called “Salsubium” by the Romans, who valued its salty, sulphuric waters. The curative properties of bromoiodide contributed to Castrocaro’s prominence as a thermal treatment center in the 1830s. The Grand Hotel Terme di Castrocaro was built during the heyday of Italian rationalism in the 1930s.

Castrocaro TermeToday, the hotel and spa offer gastronomy, grand public spaces and treatments in surroundings beautifully restored and maintained. We enjoyed a coffee in a hotel lounge before having a behind-the-scenes look Il Padiglione, the hotel’s party pavilion.

Castrocaro TermeLocated behind the hotel in a wooded park, the pavilion features decorations by Tito Chini, who brought together architecture, ceramics and decoration with exuberant originality. Il Padiglione is a veritable monument to Art Deco. Chini’s politics may have been abominable (he was an ardent Fascist until his dying day), but the decorative work of the rationalist pavilion is a magnificent display of his aesthetic sensibility.

Healing waters

Tiled floor mosaics featuring galleons in full sail, lighting fixtures from Murano, and decorative ceramics all contribute to the theme of water, expressed throughout the pavilion.

Castrocaro TermeCastrocaro TermeCastrocaro TermeSince the late eighteenth century, an entertainment pavilion had been one of the architectural components of a European spa town. Castrocaro’s pavilion was created in the image of this earlier time, with the same functional spaces: a ballroom and annexes, lounges, a coffee bar, and rooms for reading, playing games, and smoking. Public spaces on the ground floor have now been adapted to modern requirements and uses, while the more specialized rooms were merely preserved.

Public spaces

Castrocaro Terme
The reception hall is circular in shape with flooring of mosaic tiles, referencing the art forms of Pompeii. The well-made mosaics survived the storage and servicing of military tanks in the building during the Second World War.
Castrocaro Terme
In the entrance hall and corridors: zodiac symbols overhead, lighting fixtures with Art Deco refinements, and the decoration on paneled doors with vegetal and marine images.
Castrocaro Terme
Functional rationalism: large rectilinear windows and doors, inlaid geometric flooring.
Castrocaro Terme
A stately meeting and entertainment room, the Grand Salon has stylized lighting panels and the same curved Venini fixtures as found in the reception area.
Castrocaro Terme
The bar features ceramics from local factories. A frieze above the bar portrays grapes being stamped by foot in the Romagna countryside.

The Smoking Room

Castrocaro Terme
In the Smoking Room, wall paintings depict “manly” activities: here, the pursuit of love.

The Reading Room

Castrocaro Terme
The ceiling of the Reading Room is painted a dramatic red and sports a Venini chandelier.

The Billiard Room

Castrocaro Terme
A small Billiard Room still has a set of cue sticks on the wall, and monochromatic depictions of popular games, such as bocce.

The Game Room

Castrocaro Terme
Engravings on the walls of the Game Room employ the colors of playing cards and the symbols of games of chance. Even the floor is in character.
Castrocaro Terme
Wall panels in the Game Room represent the designs used on playing cards in various regions of Italy. I especially liked the figures holding coins–they are from Romagna!

The mayor of Castrocaro Terme welcomed our small group to the spa complex, calling Il Padiglione the jewel of his town. While the pavilion had little, if anything, to do with the life of the average Italian at the time of its construction, its transformation to a modern-day entertainment and business space seems appropriate.

The quality of both the original work and the restoration are impressive indeed!

*  *  *

A big thank you to the Comune di Castrocaro Terme e Terra del Sole for a detailed look at this period gem. Our visit was part of the Atrium Blog Tour sponsored by the Forlì Civil Council  and the Atrium European Project in collaboration with 21Grammy. Impressions of what we saw are all mine.

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  1. Hi, Anita and Tom
    Fascinating blog on a place I had never heard about! Great photography of a great achitectural achievement! I had never heard the term “rationalist functionalist” architecture, but gather it is used to embrace the movement started by Gropius, Van de Rohe and the Bauhaus? We are just back from our first visit ever to Barcelona. What a feast for architecture fanatics!!!!! All the best and keep on clicking!


    • Thanks Guillaumne, You’re spot on about rationalist architecture…derived from Le Corbusier, Gropius et al. Stay tuned for more from Forli and surrounds. Lucky you, to visit Barcelona. We love it there!

  2. What beautiful artwork. The bright colors are magnificent; I especially love the turqu0ise-colored doors. I could spend hours in there, admiring everything. Thanks for the wonderful post.

  3. Thanks Anita and Tom: first for being with me on this tour, second for these gorgeous photos, Claudia Castellucci and her staff will love them, third for supporting me in those days:) See you in London.
    For Roberta: imagine that this place was not opened to the public but only for important events, so even for me was a pleasure to visit it in this renewed version. I visited the all area two years ago, when my blog was not opened:)

    • Thanks for your comment, Alessandra. I’m delighted that you like the post about our great visit to Castrocaro Terme (more about our trip to follow soon). See you in London!


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